Launceston is much underrated. There are 502,000 people living in Tassie, 210,000 of them in Hobart and that’s where visitors are inclined to go. But there are 80,000 in Launceston and, while the Tamar may not be the Derwent, Launceston has great charms.
The food can be excellent and the streetscapes splendid. And it’s often got a trick or two up its sleeve. Like the fact that the best location in town is given over to a swimming complex, or the quality and inventiveness of the home made food in the local art gallery, or the fact that the upper section of the post office tower is about five degrees off true, if true is alignment with the building’s walls and the street it fronts.
We got off the plane there and spent half a day in the lately refurbished Queen Victoria gallery. We were drawn by the long-running exhibition of wilderness photography and a first class collection of Piguenits of whose work I am very fond.But they had also done something very smart and got Tasmanian artist David Keeling to respond in his own way to some of the key works in the standing collection. These fake windows with Launceston scenery are inserted between the brick ribs of the gallery wall, a lovely trompe l’oeil.
However one reason for beginning here is that I wanted an excuse to stick in a couple of favourite photos taken on Ben Lomond, Tasmania’s second highest mountain, not far south-east of Launceston and legitimated by the fact that we have climbed it with Keith and Gill even if it didn’t look quite like this that day.
We also wanted to revisit Mt Roland which features in late sun in the header to these blogs. We’ve made an effort to climb it four times, been rebuffed twice by late starts, daunting weather and bad knees, but were successful this time again. It disguised itself in cloud and constant drizzle, but in any weather it is a wonderful mountain.
It looked nothing like this on our most recent visit; but this is what it can look like. On a clear day from its summit there is a remarkable 360 degree view which takes in Bass Strait (on the horizon below), Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff, and the Western Tiers. Ben Lomond, most of 150 kilometres away, can also be visible.
The climb up Roland is an hour and a half or so along an old forest road (below), followed by a sharp climb up a creek gully coming out onto a button grass plateau. From there it’s about an hour and a half of rock-hopping with a boulder climb to the peak. The gully offers some arresting sights and moments.